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Keeping Well in Asia's World City

October 2010

By Raul Simon Cantor Lopez, Hong Kong

A city without much room for sprawl, an often balmy climate and a serious pollution problem, Hong Kong locals and ex-pats alike are exceedingly health conscious, but not necessarily in the ways one would expect. To get a balanced perspective, I had a chat with local friend Olivia Chen, putting our heads together as to what health and fitness means in “Asia’s World City”.

Olivia is an all-around health and wellness guru and an educator with Canadian athletic apparel brand lululemon. lululemon is a brand which has become a hot ticket in active wear in the region, due to their concentration on fit, fabric and function. While most mass sporting brand clothing and accessories don’t cross over between office, street, and sweat, lululemon offers this versatility that is essential to a style conscious Hong Konger.

Alongside brands such as lululemon, the brand and label conscious Hong Konger is paying close attention to what can make them stand out at the gym, on the beach (Hong Kong has beaches!), walking the dog, or in the yoga studio. Puma's collaboration with designer Mihara Yasuhiro is a good example of avant-garde designer style that can cross over between fitness and the street.

Hong Kong has many amazing hiking trails and nature reserves for such a small place, however weather and API (Air Pollution Index) are often not permitting. Thus, there are quite a range of alternatives available. Pure Fitness has become the premier lifestyle club in Hong Kong, expanding rapidly into Singapore and other Asian markets. The key to its success has been in offering not only fitness center and gym facilities, but also lifestyle and social facilities in the form of restaurants and even bars incorporated into their various premises.

Olivia also mentioned Aerial Arts Academy, a center catering to the fitness fad of pole-dancing sweeping across Asia.

One sporting sector that is often overlooked is children's fitness. A city like Hong Kong has a great number of rugrats running around, and while mom and dad are looking after themselves, what are the kids up to? More affluent families are getting their kids on the golf bandwagon through academies such as HK Pro Golf. Those with a more holistic mindset channel their kids into yoga with Pure Yoga centers even offering bilingual children's sessions.

Hong Kong has an interesting mix of Western and traditional Chinese medical practices, many of which are very relevant to Hong Kongers even today. My friends and I like to combine Western and Chinese medicine to combat any ailment, from the flu to a sprained wrist. When Olivia feels a cold or flu coming on, she supplements her vitamins with Chinese anti-flu herbal tea from the Chinese medicine shop on Stanley Street. At lunch time, the shop is packed with the young business crowd sipping away at different Chinese herbal teas for all types of ailments.

We also both try to take the natural route before heading to a doctor's office. Regular reflexology treatment is commonly sworn by as a preventative health measure, along with acupuncture and other traditional methods. Olivia is also a big believer in combining Western and Asian health practices since they complement each other in a very modern way.

Compassionate eating is a strong and ongoing health and lifestyle trend in HK. This entails educating oneself on all aspects of where food comes from and the social and environmental impact of food industries. Gourmet supermarkets like City’Super and Oliver's carry a decent choice of vegetarian and organic options. Organic produce is not only found at gourmet supermarkets, but also at local wet markets. The difference is that it’s local Hong Kong or China produce rather than imported, which is actually a smarter option because of the reduced environmental impact.

In Hong Kong, there are a few quite popular Buddhist vegetarian restaurants. They've really perfected the soy-based meat substitutes and they cook them just like your favorite Chinese dish, like sweet and sour "pork"! There are tofu options even at the local diners or "cha chahn tang". Olivia’s favorite Western vegetarian restaurants are Life Cafe in Soho or the Bookworm Cafe on Lamma Island.

In closing we have some advice for all of you that want to achieve that healthy and well state of mind: It’s not all about being a slave to your diet and exercise regimen. If you can't make it to your yoga class or to the gym that day, then maybe compromise by walking home. It's all about balance. Skipping the gym or eating birthday cake doesn't make you a bad person! Choose to eat healthy for the next couple of days, or run that extra 20 minutes on the treadmill next time. Be kind to yourself, but also make smart choices so that you will be healthier and happier in the long run.

Health & Fitness
Hong Kong

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